“…When he died, … he did so with an afro.”

fascist who ‘passed’ for white

Lawrence Dennis was a leading
light in the American fascist movement of the 1930s. He was a fan of Hitler and
a self-avowed anti-semite. Now a new book reveals that he was actually black –
although even his wife didn’t know. Gary Younge reports


The fascist who ‘passed’ for white

Lawrence Dennis was a leading light in the American fascist
movement of the 1930s. He was a fan of Hitler and a self-avowed anti-semite.
Now a new book reveals that he was actually black – although even his wife
didn’t know. Gary Younge reports

Wednesday April 4,

The Guardian

Dennis was, arguably, the brains behind American fascism.
attended the Nuremberg rallies, had
a personal audience with Mussolini, and met Nazi leaders; throughout the 1930s he provided the intellectual ballast for America‘s bourgeoning pro-fascist movement. But
though his work was well known and well appreciated by the intelligentsia and
political elites on both sides of the Atlantic, there was one crucial fact about him that has never emerged
until now: he was black.

It turns out that the man Life
magazine once described as "America’s
number one intellectual fascist" was, in fact, a light-skinned African
American, born in the segregated South – although he
"passed" for white among the greatest race hatemongers known to
In a new book, The
Colour of Fascism, Gerald Horne reveals how Dennis managed to live a lie for
his entire adult life.
"It’s not clear that his wife knew
that he was black," says Horne, a history professor at the University
of Houston. "He certainly
never told his daughter. When she asked him, he would just smile

Dennis was born in Atlanta,
Georgia in 1893 just as
racial segregation had fully reasserted its authority on the South in the wake
of the civil war. His mother was African American, as is clear
from pictures; his father’s race is not known. As a boy he was a famous child
preacher, spreading the gospel first among black American congregations and
then later abroad, even in
Britain. But at some point in
his adolescence, he did something quite dramatic: he cut all ties with his
family so that he could attend the prestigious
school of Exeter, and then Harvard, as a white man. After
that he briefly pursued a career as a diplomat and broker, and then in the wake of the Wall Street Crash went on to become the
public face of American fascism.
None of these jobs would have
been open to him had it been known he was black.

was common in American society at the time.
Despite laws against
miscegenation, the pervasive practice of masters raping their slaves had
produced a large number of light-skinned people. Under America’s
rigidly enforced codes of racial supremacy, any
child of a mixed-race relationship was deemed "black", regardless of
their complexion.
They called it the one-drop rule: one drop of
"black blood" made you black.

Given the manifest benefits of
life on the other side of the colour line, black people who
could pass as white often did, even though doing so meant cutting themselves
off from their family and their past.
Passing has provided the
dramatic tension for many a novel, including Philip Roth’s The Human Stain,
Walter Moseley’s Devil in a Blue Dress and, most pertinently, Nella Larsen’s
Passing. "Every year approximately 12,000 white-skinned Negroes
disappear," Walter White, the former head of the civil rights
organisation, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People,
claimed in the late 1940s. "People whose
absence cannot be explained by death or emigration … men and women who have
decided that they will be happier and more successful if they flee from the
proscription and humiliation which the American colour line imposes on
White, who was light-skinned, used to pass himself
as white at times when investigating lynch mobs in the South.

Dennis was dark enough to make most people look twice.
The Nazi
sympathiser and pilot Charles Lindbergh suspected that some of Dennis’s
"ancestors … might have come from the near east". Lindbergh’s wife Anne referred to Dennis’s
"bronzed" skin.
A New York Times report in 1927
outlined Dennis’s "close-cropped bristly hair and [skin] deeply bronzed by
the tropical sun". A leftwing newspaper mentioned "the tall, swarthy
prophet of ‘intellectual fascism’ ".

"Some suspected and others
knew," says Horne. "But there
was a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy in place at the time for those on the borders
of the colour line.
One could perform whiteness to some degree,
and that is precisely what Dennis did. His conservative politics also insulated
him from a lot of further inquiry."

Years later, when he was forced
to defend himself against charges of being a Nazi collaborator in a
high-profile trial, one onlooker is recorded as saying that she
was "puzzled and apprehensive over the fact that in nothing which I have
read about Lawrence Dennis has mention been made that he is the son of a Negro
mother. This fact was known to thousands, at least up to his 16th year when I
knew him."

But while most people were, it
seems, certain that he was no Wasp, no one seems to have had the audacity to
suggest publicly that he was black either. And among the black community there
was such a widespread awareness of passing that "outing"
someone was considered a particularly vengeful act.
people then would have been very protective of his secret in a way I think they
would not be now," says Horne. "He was like a slave who had escaped
the plantation."

In any case, Dennis was not your
run-of-the-mill fascist. He described
fascism not so much as an ideology he favoured but simply as the inevitable
consequence of
America‘s political trajectory. "I took what
was then considered a pro-facist view," Dennis explained in his later
years. "I said that Hitler and Mussolini were rising to meet the economic
crisis and that we would have to do much the same thing … I defended them and
tried to explain them; and that [brought] me under considerable criticism and
attack as being a fascist … I said the United States will have to go fascist
in the same way that Germany and Italy have gone."

Dennis had in fact gone further,
while still hiding behind the smokescreen of objectivity. "When
analysed simply on the basis of historical fact, [Hitler] is not only the
greatest political genius since Napoleon but also the most rational," he
once said.

Dennis’s views gained particular
currency in the late 1930s as a significant portion of the US
rallied against America
joining the war and he launched into his most prominent period as a forthright

Horne describes Dennis’s position
as both cynical and logical. "Well, you could see why he would think it
was inevitable," he says. "Fascism was a far
greater threat to the
US than communism ever was. Dennis had no
faith in the white working class. So if you believe it’s going to happen you
have one of two choices. You can fight against it or you can ride the wave. He decided to ride the wave and that was hard-boiled
cynicism and coldly calculating.

was a prickly, arrogant character who never seemed to be happier than when he
was slating the intellects of others and making references to his own
In an interview with the author John Roy Carlson,
he was asked about a series of congressmen with whom he was acquainted. For
each one he would just say: "Dumb. No brains." The influential
publisher of the Chicago Tribune company? "Dumb. No brains." On a
trip to Germany
he met Rudolph Hess, whom he regarded as "more of an intellectual than the
others", meaning Hermann Goering and Joseph Goebbels.

Dennis was
undoubtedly antisemitic
– "I am no friend of the
Jews," he once wrote – but his antisemitism was no more
pronounced than that of most Wasps in the
US at the time and less severe than that of the Nazis.
"Hitler says the Jew cannot be a citizen of Germany.
I consider that position to be unsound nationalism," he said. "As for
any persecution or organized violence against Jews in this country, I consider
it unthinkable."

Not surprisingly, perhaps, his
racial politics were the most peculiar. He kept company with some of the most
extreme white supremacists of his day, but despite the views of most of his
friends and backers, Dennis managed
both to champion fascism and subtly to maintain a distance from racist polemic.

While in Berlin,
he asked Karl Boemer of Hitler’s Propaganda Ministry: "Why
don’t you treat the Jews more or less as we treat the Negroes in
America? You can practice discrimination and all that, but be a
little hypocritical and moderate and do not get in conflict with American
As the years went on he opposed segregation,
branding the "the case against integration in the schools" as one
"based on odious comparisons".

retrospect, given his status as a black man in white drag writing for the hard
right, his constant references to race in
America seem reckless. "He was like an arsonist who simply
could not resist returning to the scene of a crime,"
Horne. But in the end it was the law rather than his race that would come into
conflict with his rightwing views. For, as the war was winding down, Dennis
found himself on trial for sedition; he was one of 29
defendants charged with undermining the morale of the armed forces. They were
accused of being part of some kind of worldwide Nazi conspiracy.

(Horne describes the trial as a farcical attempt to "frame a guilty

The case collapsed after the
judge had a fatal heart attack. But Dennis’s world was also collapsing. Friends
and financial supporters distanced themselves from him. His
wife, Eleanor, who had worked as both housekeeper and secretary to his one-man
intellectual operation, filed for divorce in 1956. Dennis’s arrogance, it
seems, had been as prominent in his personal life as in his professional life.
is just hard to believe Eleanor can be so mad," he wrote to a friend. "What
jolts me is that over 62 years in which I had lots of affairs and nearly a
dozen women one time or another who seriously wanted to marry … I never had a
single one turn on me. I could meet and exchange fond memories with every one
of them. This is the first time a woman ever turned on

Their two daughters, Emily and
Laura, studied at top colleges before graduating into good marriages even as
their father’s fortunes declined. After his divorce,
with no extended family – he had had to bid farewell to them years ago in order
to pass as white – he was on his own. With subscriptions to his newsletter
drying up and the cold-war era dismissive of his politics, he struggled to pay
his way with bits of writing and the occasional lecture.
He did
marry again, though, and after his second wife died he moved in with daughter

In what
may have been his most audacious act of defiance, or evidence that he had
finally given up the pretence, he eventually let his hair grow out. When he
died, in obscurity, in 1977, he did so with an afro.


Hitler’s debt to America

The Nazis’ extermination programme was
carried out in the name of eugenics – but they were by no means the only
advocates of racial purification. In this extract from his extraordinary new
book, Edwin Black describes how Adolf Hitler’s race hatred was underpinned by
the work of American eugenicists

Friday February 6,

The Guardian

At 4am
on November 12 1915, a
woman named Anna Bollinger gave birth at the German-American
Hospital in Chicago.
The baby was somewhat deformed and suffered from extreme
intestinal and rectal abnormalities, as well as other complications.

The delivering physicians awakened Dr Harry
Haiselden, the hospital’s chief of staff.
Haiselden came in at
once. He consulted with colleagues. There was great disagreement over whether
the child could be saved. But Haiselden decided the baby
was too afflicted and fundamentally not worth saving. It would be killed. The
method: denial of treatment.

Catherine Walsh, probably a
friend of Bollinger’s, heard the news and sped to the hospital to help. She
found the baby, who had been named Allan, alone in a bare room. Walsh pleaded
with Haiselden not to kill the baby by withholding treatment. "It was not
a monster – that child," Walsh later told an inquest. "It was a
beautiful baby. I saw no deformities." Walsh had patted the infant
lightly. Allan’s eyes were open, and he waved his tiny fists at her. Begging
the doctor once more, Walsh tried an appeal to his humanity. "If the poor
little darling has one chance in a thousand," she pleaded, "won’t you
operate to save it?" Haiselden laughed at Walsh, retorting, "I’m
afraid it might get well." He was a skilled and experienced surgeon,
trained by the best doctors in Chicago.
He was also an ardent eugenicist. Allan Bollinger duly died. An inquest was
convened a few days later. Haiselden
defiantly declared, "I should have been guilty of a graver crime if I had
saved this child’s life. My crime would have been keeping in existence one of
nature’s cruellest blunders."
A juror shot back, "What
do you mean by that?" Haiselden responded, "Exactly
that. I do not think this child would have grown up to be a mental defective. I
know it."

After tempestuous proceedings,
the inquest ruled: "We believe that a prompt operation would have
prolonged and perhaps saved the life of the child. We find no evidence from the
physical defects that the child would have become mentally or morally
defective." But they also decided that Haiselden
was within his professional rights to decline treatment. No law compelled him
to operate on the child.
He was released unpunished, and efforts
by the Illinois attorney general
to indict him for murder were blocked by the local prosecutor. The doctor considered his legal vindication a powerful
victory for eugenics. "Eugenics? Of course it’s eugenics,"

he told one reporter.

became an overnight celebrity, known for his many newspaper articles, his
speaking tours and outrageous diatribes. In 1917,
Hollywood came calling. The film was called The Black Stork. Written
by Jack Lait, a reporter on the
Chicago American, it was produced in Hollywood and given a massive national distribution and promotion
campaign. Haiselden played himself in a fictionalised account of a eugenically
mismatched couple whom he advises not to have children because they are likely
to be defective. Eventually, the woman does give birth to a defective child,
whom she then allows to die. The dead child levitates into the waiting arms of
Jesus Christ. It was unbridled cinematic propaganda for the eugenics movement;
the film played at movie theatres around the country for more than a decade.

National publicity advertised it as a "eugenic love
story". One advertisement quoted Swiss eugenicist Auguste Forel’s warning:
"The law of heredity winds like a red thread through the family history of
every criminal, of every epileptic, eccentric and insane person. Shall we sit
still … without applying the remedy?" In 1917, a display advertisement
for The Black Stork read: "Kill
Defectives, Save the Nation and See ‘The Black Stork’." Various methods of
eugenic euthanasia – including gassing the unwanted in lethal chambers – were a
part of everyday American parlance and ethical debate some two decades before
Nevada approved the first such chamber for criminal executions in 1921.

As America‘s eugenics movement gathered pace, it inspired a host of
In France,
Belgium, Sweden,
England and
elsewhere in Europe, cliques of eugenicists did their
best to introduce eugenic principles into national life; they could always
point to recent precedents established in the United

was no exception. From the turn of the century, German
eugenicists formed academic and personal relationships with the American
eugenics establishment,
in particular with Charles Davenport,
the pioneering founder of the Eugenics Record Office on Long
Island, New York, which was
backed by the Harriman railway fortune. A number of other charitable American bodies generously funded German race biology with
hundreds of thousands of dollars, even after the depression had taken hold.

Germany had certainly developed its own body of eugenic knowledge
and library of publications. Yet German readers still closely followed American
eugenic accomplishments as the model: biological courts, forced sterilisation,
detention for the socially inadequate, debates on euthanasia.
America’s elite were describing the socially worthless and the ancestrally
unfit as "bacteria," "vermin," "mongrels" and
"subhuman", a superior race of Nordics was increasingly seen as the
answer to the globe’s eugenic problems. US laws, eugenic investigations and
ideology became blueprints for Germany’s
rising tide of race biologists and race-based hatemongers.

such agitator was a disgruntled corporal in the German army. In 1924, he was
serving time in prison for mob action. While there, he spent his time poring
over eugenic textbooks,
which extensively quoted Davenport,
Popenoe and other American ethnological stalwarts. And he closely followed the
writings of Leon Whitney, president of the American Eugenics Society, and
Madison Grant, who extolled the Nordic race and bemoaned its
"corruption" by Jews, Negroes, Slavs and others who did not possess
blond hair and blue eyes. The young German corporal even wrote one of them fan

In The Passing of the Great Race,
Grant wrote: "Mistaken regard for what are believed to be divine laws and
a sentimental belief in the sanctity of human life tend to prevent both the
elimination of defective infants and the sterilisation of such adults as are
themselves of no value to the community. The laws of nature
require the obliteration of the unfit and human life is valuable only when it
is of use to the community or race.

One day
in the early 1930s, Whitney visited Grant to show off a letter he had just
received from
Germany, written by the corporal, now out of prison and rising in
the German political scene.
Grant could only smile. He pulled
out his own letter. It was from the same German, thanking Grant for writing The
Passing of the Great Race. The fan letter called Grant’s book "his
Bible". The man who sent those letters was Adolf

Hitler displayed his knowledge of
American eugenics in much of his writing and conversation. In Mein Kampf, for
example, he declared: "The demand
that defective people be prevented from propagating equally defective offspring
is a demand of clearest reason and, if systematically executed, represents the
most humane act of mankind. It will spare millions of unfortunates undeserved
sufferings, and consequently will lead to a rising improvement of health as a whole."

Kampf also displayed a familiarity with the recently passed US National Origins
Act, which called for eugenic quotas. "There is today one state in which
at least weak beginnings toward a better conception [of immigration] are
noticeable. Of course, it is not our model German Republic, but [the
US], in which an effort is made to consult reason at least
partially. By refusing immigrants on principle to elements in poor health, by
simply excluding certain races from naturalisation, it professes in slow
beginnings a view that is peculiar to the People’s State."

Hitler proudly told his comrades
how closely he followed American eugenic legislation. "Now that we know
the laws of heredity," he told a fellow Nazi, "it is possible to a
large extent to prevent unhealthy and severely handicapped beings from coming
into the world. I have studied with interest the laws of
several American states concerning prevention of reproduction by people whose
progeny would, in all probability, be of no value or be injurious to the racial

Nor did Hitler fail to grasp the
eugenic potential of gas and the lethal chamber, a topic that was already being
discussed in German eugenic circles before Mein Kampf was published. Hitler,
who had himself been hospitalised for battlefield gas injuries, wrote: "If
at the beginning of the war and during the war 12,000 or 15,000 of these Hebrew
corrupters of the people had been held under poison gas, as happened to
hundreds of thousands of our best German workers in the field, the sacrifices
of millions at the front would not have been in vain. On the contrary: 12,000
scoundrels eliminated in time might have saved the lives of a million real
Germans, valuable for the future."

On January 30 1933, Hitler seized power. During the 12-year
Reich, he never varied from the eugenic doctrines of identification,
segregation, sterilisation, euthanasia, eugenic courts and eventually mass
termination in lethal chambers. During the Reich’s first 10 years, eugenicists
across America
welcomed Hitler’s plans as the logical fulfilment of their own decades of
research and effort. Indeed, they were envious as Hitler rapidly began
sterilising hundreds of thousands and systematically eliminating non-Aryans
from German society. This included the Jews. Ten years after Virginia
passed its 1924 sterilisation act, Joseph Dejarnette, superintendent of Virginia’s
Western State
Hospital, complained in the
Richmond Times-Dispatch: "The Germans are beating us at our own

Most of
all, American raceologists were proud to have inspired the strictly eugenic
state the Nazis were constructing.
In those early years of the
Third Reich, Hitler and his race hygienists carefully crafted eugenic
legislation modelled on laws already introduced across America
and upheld by the supreme court. Nazi doctors, and
even Hitler himself, regularly communicated with American eugenicists from New
York to California, ensuring that
Germany would scrupulously follow the path blazed by the US. American eugenicists were eager to assist.

was particularly true of
California‘s eugenicists, who led the nation in sterilisation and
provided the most scientific support for Hitler’s regime.
1934, as Germany’s
sterilisations were accelerating beyond 5,000 per month, the California
eugenic leader and immigration activist CM Goethe was ebullient in
congratulating ES Gosney of the San Diego-based Human Betterment Foundation for
his impact on Hitler’s work. Upon his return in 1934 from a eugenic
fact-finding mission in Germany,
Goethe wrote Gosney a letter of praise. The foundation was so proud of Goethe’s
letter that they reprinted it in their 1935 annual report.

"You will be interested to
know," Goethe’s letter proclaimed, "that your
work has played a powerful part in shaping the opinions of the intellectuals
behind Hitler in this epoch-making program. Everywhere I sensed that their
opinions have been tremendously stimulated by American thought, and
particularly by the work of the Human Betterment Foundation.

want you, my dear friend, to carry this thought with you for the rest of your
life, that you have really jolted into action a great government of 60 million

· Extracted from War Against the
Weak: Eugenics and America’s
Campaign to Create a Master Race, by Edwin Black, published by Turnaround,
price £17.99. To order a copy for £15.99 plus p&p, call the Guardian book
service on 0870 066 7979. Edwin Black is also the author of the New York Times
bestseller, IBM and the Holocaust.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Mmmm. ¿’Tonz algunos de los fachos WASPs no lo
eran tanto? El otro día también lo escuchaba en una plática con un cuate, los
más recalcitrantes e intolerantes racistas en Méjico llevan sangre no tan PURA
en sus venas.

Alas, pus yo esperaría entonces que esos que son
muy acá, de la destra radicale, chanza sólo están fingiendo pa’ avanzar las
propuestas más izquierdosas de todo el espectro politico. Great!!! ¡Haberlo
dicho antes! Aquí me tienen dando lo mejor de mi, que no es mucho por cierto,
mientras ustedes tienen el masterplan bien “aceitadito”. Je, je, je.


Norwich, U(na) K(GB)


Todos contra uno y uno contraaa … pus una nomás. Yo prefiero el One on One; no
se me da el sexo tumultuario, la neta.

P.D.Malinchista. La Marina ha re-encarnado.

P.D.Chancha. La Guerra Puerca está presta a reciclarse.

P.D. Hermética. "…sell your soul/keep your
shell…" – Crossroads (Tracy Chapman).

P.D.arreglada. A veces se gana, a veces se pierde, a
veces, … a veces, … mmmm, pus se prepara el resultado.

21 de Agosto de 1994, la paisana, pernoctando
en Tasqueña, Avila Camacho, una zapatería en Tepito, una labia convincente, las
Marilus, el registro, el Hotel España, la Astudillo, divorciada, el juanjoché,
Doña Pene, el "tiroloco McGraw", la Chiapaneca, Acapatzingo, 16 de
septiembre, La Peni, la casa de Maximiliano, la academia de policía, el
barranco, la alberca, Citlalli, las gorditas en el Mercado, Tepoz, un club de
Golf que no VA, Las Lagunas de Zempoala, Huitzilac, La Chica Prodigio, Los
Cucos, Silvia "La Piernona", El "Perrote", El
"Tobi", Don Pacorro, Don Casca, Tarianes, La Holanda, BASF, CIVAC,
Los Acorazados, Rinconada Las Palmas, Un Tlacuachote, El Batoclós, Don Gelatino,
Candy, El Matasiete, Altavista, La Carolina, La CTM, La 19, La Selva, Casa de
Piedra, Avenida Juárez, el cine Morelos, la autopista, la UAEM, Oscar,
Teopanzolco, el "Coruco" Díaz, Una cena en el barco, el Ficho, El
Monsi en el Borda, El Vivaldi, La 3 de Mayo, Zapata, Lupita "La
Bruja", Nancy, unas reuniones "matutinas", Hilda, El George, Los
Sesma, El Pastrana, Vicky, La Primera dedicatoria en una tesis, una cátedra
universitaria, la "mantecola", un choque espectacular, muchos centros
de investigación, Las estacas, Casablanca, el carro rojo, el Alex, una tesis
apresurada, refacciones importadas, Satelite, el primer sobrino, un chop suey,
momiyi, una gran colección de discos, la trova, unos firmes muslos, unos
turgentes pechos, pelo de cocker, una carga insoportable, un trío improbable, la
camarona, el winnie puh, una división imbécil, una fiesta de bienvenida, un
terremoto desapercibido, una poli coqueta, una credencial indispensable, un
pozolito en Pogreso, las patrullas, el Nessy, un ataque cardiaco, un ahorcado, un comedor espacioso, un power mac, lady Laura, el final de
una comedia, unos celos irracionales, el Mike, un servicio social, una escalada
con cangurera, una cena en Humboldt, unos examenes de casa desgastantes, varios
viajes a CU, la novena en Bellas Artes, Portales, Ofelia Medina

desayunando, un Huipil, wanzontles capeados,
una alcantarillada, la chica Freud, Gladys Creta, la plaza de la solidaridad,
tramitando una placas, un shadow café, una chinche besucona, muchos
vinagrillos, mezcal adulterado, una gringa en Anenecuilco, un mirador en la
pera, alejado del fut, una boda en Jojutla, una caja de Don Pedro, una cartera
de piel, una operación necesaria, un oído reventado, Vero manita, una
lavandería automática, una colcha puerquísima, un curso sobre UNIX, el gran
JOE, unos jumiles, Xochicalco, una labradora atrabancada, un amor compartido,
un improbable Casanova, una traición involuntaria, el primer compló, los

la Tigresa, una Hungara, un par de Polacos, un
Franchute, una preciosa Venezolana, una entrega TOTAL, unas cartas reveladoras,
unos esbozos a lápiz, una mirada infinita, una dulce llamada, un golazazo de Zidane, una final en Yokohama,
dormitando en carretera, un examen profesional, Juan José Arreola, Elena Garro,
Rius, avenida INSURGENTES, …Don Goyo.

Noriega, Duvalier, Hussein, … who’s next?

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